Change of pace between Washington and Tehran?

Change of pace between Washington and Tehran?

Giuseppe Acconcia
Giuseppe Acconcia | Journalist focusing on the Middle East
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Trump's landing at the White House, and the consolidation of Republican positions, could negatively affect relations between the U.S. and Iran and "stop" the process involving the implementation of the nuclear agreements. And while analysts are hoping for a Russian "moderator" intervention, foreign investments in Iran are accelerating

The Republican victory in the U.S. Presidential elections held on November 8 has opened up a new page on foreign policy. Specifically, relations between Washington and the main countries of the Middle East could be subject to a turnaround following the statements of the entourage of the President-elect, Donald Trump, on the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in the lists of terrorist groups and on a new path in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). Therefore, this news will have an impact on the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, first and foremost, the implementation of one of the international agreements most desired by the Barack Obama's outgoing administration, the Vienna Agreement, signed in July 2015 on the Iranian nuclear issue, could suffer a setback. According to the schedule established in Vienna, the international sanctions against Tehran, imposed and exacerbated over the last ten years, should have already been lifted. However, the U.S. banks especially are proceeding slowly with unfreezing of millions of dollars, blocked as a result of the sanctions for its nuclear program. According to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, "the result of the elections in the United States will not have any effect on the policies of the Islamic Republic", pressed by Foreign Minister and Chief Negotiator Javad Zarif, who recalled that the agreement cannot be renegotiated as it is supported by Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany (P5+1). During the electoral campaign, Donald Trump had declared his intention to dismantle the nuclear agreement once elected, accusing the Iranian people of "terrorism". This is why Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami called for an official apology from the United States "to the Iranian people" in one of his latest speeches.

A step back for US-Iran bilateral relations

Therefore, relations between the United States and Iran seem to be going uphill.
The victory of the moderates in the elections in June 2013 had marked a slow rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, with the first contacts made between the Presidents of the two countries after over thirty years of diplomatic freeze. Moreover, the Vienna Agreement had paved the way for Iran’s inclusion in the global market, the increase in foreign investment, especially European, and the reopening of the British Embassy in Tehran. The victory of the Republicans, who have always focused on imposing new sanctions against Iran, could mark a step back in bilateral relations between Tehran and Washington, despite the intentions expressed by the President-elect, Donald Trump, of reaching an agreement with Moscow for managing the Syrian crisis. "It is important for the Iranians to understand and assess the policy of the new government of the United States", said the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Qassemi, adding that "the Iranian nation has had bitter experiences as regards previous policies of U.S. Presidents".
To this end, many analysts look with uncertainty to the future of the Vienna Agreement. "This election is proof that we cannot take anything for granted," explained Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). "The risk of a legalized discrimination is real. This is why we hope that the President-elect will distance himself from the statements made during his election campaign," added Parsi.
Above all, the political radicals, close to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are currently in a state of anxiety. Tehran could break the agreement on the nuclear issue if the United States do not lift the sanctions. This is what the deputy commander of the Pasdaran, Hussein Salami, threatened. The ultra-conservative general stressed that Iran could revise its nuclear program and uranium enrichment levels following the statements made by Republican politicians.

No stop to the boom in foreign investment in Tehran

The increase in foreign investments in the country seems to be nowhere near to coming to a stop.
Tehran signed sixty financial agreements after signing the agreement on the nuclear issue, half of which have already been implemented in the industrial, mining and commercial sectors.
Iran then signed a $4.8 billion agreement with a consortium led by France’s Total for the development of the South Pars gas field. The agreement, signed before Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh, is the most important reached so far between Iran and European energy companies. The South Pars gas field contains 14,000 billion cubic meters of gas, 8% of global reserves. However, there are no positive signs in domestic politics, especially as regards human rights. For this reason, seventeen Iranian parliamentarians have written a letter to Attorney-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, demanding explanations on the sentencing of the activist Narges Mohammadi to 16 years of imprisonment. Finally, the Iranian parliament gave a vote of confidence to three new ministries: Culture, Sport and Education. This could mark a strengthening of the moderate positions in cultural policies that have so far been limited by conservative politicians. The Republican victory in the United States could strengthen the ultra-conservative component in Iran. The possibility of Washington not complying with its commitment to lifting the sanctions against Iran could question the entire system of the agreement reached in Vienna between Tehran and the international community. This could lead to the end of the era of rapprochement between the United States and Iran. However, Moscow could play a decisive role in promoting the full implementation of the agreement with the aim of reaching an agreed solution with Washington for the Syrian crisis.